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Swept under the rug, part III

June 01 2023
An iconic Stik figure is spotted in  New York City. © the Pavement An iconic Stik figure is spotted in New York City. © the Pavement

The third and final instalment of a bracing, powerful story. Kathy has rebuilt a peaceful, independent life, but a figure from her past forces her to confront the trauma she carries. Themes explored in this story are traumatic and may upset readers. Story by Rosie Healey


Issues 142 and 143 of the Pavement featured the first two parts of Rosie Healey’s Swept under the rug story. Catch up on what’s happened in the story so far below:

  • Kathy enjoys a peaceful life in a caravan, but endured trauma in her past
  • Byron, Kathy’s neighbour and friend, warns her that her ex, James, is being released from prison
  • When Kathy returns home from a walk, her daughter, Charlotte, is waiting outside. Charlotte has an abusive partner and is distressed when she comes to visit
  • Kathy and her daughter proceed to have an argument, with part II of the story ending when Charlotte leaves and Kathy drowns her sorrows with some vodka.

Part III

Kathy flicked her head back to allow the alcohol to burn her throat. She slammed the glass on the counter and shook her head from side to side. “I’m not in the mood for your jokes today,” she said, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

“We don’t have to joke; we could actually have a conversation. Your daughter came here yesterday looking for help. And now she’s gone. What does that tell you?” Byron asked.

“That she’s stubborn.”

“And I wonder where she gets it from?”

“I’m out of here.”

“For once Kathy will you just stay and let go of your bloody ego!”

Kathy turned to glare, but Byron stared straight back, studying the green embers of her irises. They began to sink and surrender. “I, um,” Kathy’s words were trying to spill out of her cracked lips.

“It’s ok, come here,” Byron opened his arms, but Kathy declined.

“I don’t talk about James because he’s a horrible man. When Charlotte was five, he changed. He became, I don’t know, he just changed.

“He became violent, the first time was when I dropped an egg on the floor. Out of nowhere, he grabbed the back of my neck and threw me down. I cracked my head and just remember lying next to the broken eggshell,” Kathy’s voice box became jittery, “he told me how sorry he was, and that he’d never do something like that again. Stupidly I believed him.”

Byron began to witness her egotistical facade crumbling.

“Over the next three years, he hit me monthly, weekly, then daily, and that’s if he came home. He always stunk of whisky and perfume. Charlotte was eight by this time. She had nightmares and woke up screaming in the middle of the night. Every night. I had broken ribs and was covered in bruises, I could barely leave the house. The final straw was when I woke up one night and didn’t hear the screams. I went in to check on her, and,” Kathy’s forehead scrunched up and her lower lip started to tremble uncontrollably, “James was strangling her.”

Byron gasped, covering his mouth with both hands. Kathy battled with another shot of vodka before she could continue.

“I managed to get him off her in time, but when we fought, he pushed her over, knocking her head on the side table. She was unconscious. I phoned the ambulance, and she was taken to hospital,” Kathy’s body was now shivering, “we went to my sister’s and…”

“I didn’t know you had a sister?” His timing was poor, Byron gestured for her to continue.

“We went to my sister’s and lived there for a while. Charlotte can’t remember a thing before the head injury. She has aphasia, that’s why she stutters. She moved out when she was sixteen to be with that arsehole, Lee.” Kathy curled into a ball on the floor, with her head on her knees. “I just can’t watch my little girl go through what I went through, she’s there and I’m helpless!”

Byron, mustering the strength to move his frozen body, went over and put his arms around her from behind.

“Oh Kathy, I’m so sorry!” Byron tilted his head against hers and rocked her side to side as she wept.

Hours passed. There was a third left in the bottle. After two days straight, the rain had decided to retreat. Kathy was no longer scrunched up on the floor. She lay in a fetal position on the sofa, under a blanket that Byron had covered her with. Her body felt weightless, as though a demon inside her had been drawn out. Byron sat on the edge beside her, stroking her head in between sips of his drink.

“Kathy, maybe it’s time you sat down and told Charlotte the truth.”

She sat upright, observing both Byron and the bottle, “Why?”

“Because she always asks you about her shit-stained dad, and she deserves to know. Maybe this will be the freedom from her own abuse.”

“And how would that be freedom exactly?”

“Because more than anyone, you understand what she’s going through. What she’s suffering. And I’m sorry to say it, but she may not be so lucky next time.”

Kathy breathed heavily at the thought of Byron’s unwanted words.  “You know, for a clumsy old drunk, you speak sense.” Kathy’s tone was unfriendly, but Byron could see in her eyes that she was grateful. She took her friend’s hand in hers and said, “Thank you.”

“What are drunk bastards for, ey?” He reached over to the table: his hand didn’t unravel from Kathy’s. “Here, I think it’s time to break the cycle.”

He handed her his phone. For a moment, Kathy hesitated. She didn’t want to sweep the carpet from beneath Charlotte’s feet, but there was too much dirt underneath now to hide it. She inhaled, and then as she exhaled, she took the phone from Byron’s hand and began to dial.